Author: Iva Sokolovska, ZOO Skopje Volunteer
Do you love animals? Well, all you need is a positive answer to this one! I would like to share my experience and inform everyone interested in the opportunity to help animals, to spend some time with new and interesting people and to do something beneficial! Namely, I am a volunteer in the Skopje ZOO, the city zoo in Skopje, Macedonia. And, indeed, it has been one of the best experiences in my life and career so far.
First of all, let me explain “what it’s all about”. About a month ago, I saw an ad calling for volunteers in the Zoo. Being an ecologist and owning all varieties of pets, from rodents to arachnids, I applied right away. Our first meeting was held in the Zoo during one Sunday morning. We were greeted by a group of five young ladies that were the first volunteers to apply and they gave us a tour around the Zoo explaining our duties. And that’s how the story began.
As a volunteer, you can do anything you show talent for or have an interest in if you can find a way to adapt all that to the needs of the Zoo and do something constructive. You can take photographs, plan events, face paint, work with children, help take care of the animals… and everything that is asked from you is to donate at least two hours a week out of your spare time in order to contribute. We are a team of about 50 people and I usually spend there every free hour that I have. If I can’t make it through the week I am there throughout the entire weekend. We do everything from fence painting to birthday parties, we take on duties created by ourselves, we work along with the animal caretakers and, therefore, keep the living space and facilities clean as well as the animals well fed and healthy; we even have a mentor in taxidermy.
However, one of our most important duties is the Eco-patrol. We divide ourselves up into teams and each team is responsible for a specific area in the ZOO. Within each area we watch out for the animals not to be harmed or fed with candy and chips by the visitors. We try to educate visitors not to give food to animals, not to throw trash or damage the cages. We rotate each 45 minutes not to get bored and be more effective. Being involved in the Eco-patrol teaches you on how to improve your skills, learn to be patient and deal with all kinds of characters. Furthermore, it serves you personally as a lesson on how to learn not to lose it over unimportant issues and bad manners. Of course, we are always polite, nice and welcoming. We can point out if people are doing something wrong or putting themselves in danger and we do get different reactions. Some are nice, some are not so nice, some are not nice at all. The point is not to become impolite, just to be yourself, be nice and try keeping in mind that you are there to help promote and improve the working in the Zoo. But on the bright side, there are a lot of fun people that will apologize and even ask to know something more about the Zoo volunteering. The best thing of this is that it works out and improvements have been made.
And now we come to the making-new-friends part. I know that it might sound as a cliché but I got to meet a bunch of great people and I am having a blast every time I go there. In the Educational Center we get to work with children, entertain them and we are constantly amazed of how much they love and know about animals. We organize theater shows, face-painting events, birthday parties… On special days we organize tree planting, fancy dress contests and tours. Among ourselves, we celebrate each other’s birthdays, we go out, we have fun all the time while working in the ZOO and I am glad to say that we are all becoming very good friends.
Moreover, if the sunny days spent outside, the new friendships established or the given opportunity to educate people is not enough for you, I am sure that the chance to take care of animals will ultimately win you over. We work together with the animal caretakers and help them feed the animals and maintain their health. When you spend some time with animals, they become even more amazing and lovely. And I can’t describe you the feeling when you witness the birth of a baby animal. This month one of our goats gave birth to a healthy little baby goat and we made sure it was safe and not hurt by males. Last week, we welcomed a new baby lemur and six precious yellow baby goslings.
New animals are being brought to our Zoo all the time. We are proud to inform you that we received a young crocodile and two Persian leopards as well as a female gibbon as donations from the ZOO of Orsa, Sweden. We are very excited to announce that a giraffe and an elephant will be delivered in fall.
ZOO Skopje has come a long way since its foundation but it still needs a lot of work. Any help is welcome, any talent is appreciated. ZOO Skopje is definitely a place to show your creativity and your desire to help. In return we promise lots of fun and learning experience like you never had before.